Sunday 26 December 1999

December 26, 1999

What a week of ups and downs it has been. First off, my computer completely crashed on Sunday - luckily I had the laptop that I'm taking up to Alaska, so I was still able to get my 'fix' of surfing and emails. By Monday night, thanks to my very kind brother in law, Kelly, I had it back and running (I did lose my email address book and a number of other things though!). Maybe this time I'll learn to back up my stuff - but I doubt it!

On Monday the computer filled up with messages from friends in Alaska - they had SNOW!!! Heaps and heaps of snow! I started rushing around like a chicken with it's head chopped off, making the final plans for our departure on December 26. Then on Wednesday the computer was again filled up by the same friends, but with bad news - RAIN! Seems that a 'Pineapple Express' weather front moved into Alaska dumping tons of warm moisture on them. In the Anchorage, Wasilla, Willow area, it was warm and wet enough that they lost most of the snow that arrived just days before. On Thursday, after talking to all sorts of folks in Alaska we made the decision to postpone the trip north for 1 week. It really isn't all that bad for us. I have some time to deal with more last minute details and we are still getting some pretty good quad runs in on the dogs.

Speaking of the dogs - I can honestly say that I have never seen them look better. They are strong, sassy, and happy! Earlier this week I made the final cuts and selected the 20 dogs that are going with us to Alaska. It was hard - especially the last 3 cuts of Sammie, Visa, and Mork. I'm very lucky to have this kind of depth in our kennel! The list of the twenty can be found at our new link The Team.
Christmas was basically a 'non-event' around here this year. My Mom and brother, Jim were up a little over a week ago and we opened presents and had a turkey dinner then. Christmas Eve found us out on the trails. We are running a lot of roads lately, so we got to run by lots of house decked out in lights for the holidays. It was kind of like a slower, less fancy version of the trips driving through town in the family car looking at lights on Christmas Eve that we did when I was a kid. Some of the neighbors were out and about on the roads, almost all stopped to roll down their windows and wish us a Merry Christmas. One of the families all piled into their car when we went by and all came out to take some pictures and wish us a Merry Christmas! Of course, that big, bright, gorgeous moon that has been around since December 22 made an appearance too. All and all, a pretty neat Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was pretty much the same. The dogs got extra big breakfasts, although I did forget to pass out the pig's ears and salmon chunks that Santa was so kind to leave them - guess that will have to be done today!
We were very lucky last week to have my brother come back up for 4 days to help out. He was a lifesaver - running to town for dog food, doing banking, helping out in the yard. I can sure see how a full time handler would be a pretty cool thing to have! Actually though, I rather just have a maid and a cook - I enjoy the yard chores - it's all the other things I don't like! Maybe when we win the lottery :)

I hope that all of you had a Merry Christmas!

Sunday 19 December 1999

December 19, 1999

Well, we are in the countdown until I leave for Alaska! One week today!!!! I think 'YIPPEE' until I realize all that is still left to be done! One obstacle stands in our way and that is snow. I got an email from Maureen in Alaska saying that she had switched over to a sled, but was only running teams of 4 for safety. We really need another 6 inches or so to make things safe up there!

At home we have run into some weather problems too. We got some more snow but it is not enough for the sleds and too much for the quads. I took 2 - 8 dog teams out on Saturday, but Mark had to come out on the snowmobile in case I had a tangle or problem because there is not enough of a base to sink a snowhook. So, it has been a bad week for training and I've fallen a little behind my training mileage goals.

My Mother and brother, Jim came up during the week for a little early Christmas celebration. It sure was nice to have them up. Jim is even talking about coming back on Monday to help me with some of my preparations! I certainly put him to work for the time he was here. On Thursday we packed 23 dogs into the dog truck and headed for the vet in Westlock. We had bloodwork and health certificates for crossing the Alaska border done on 22 of them. Everyone checked out fine and we certainly caused a stir in the Clinic!

Number 23 on the truck was a sad story. As I had previously mentioned, we had a tumor removed from Pirates intestines a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the tests came back and Pirate has cancer. Dr. Jackson figures that he will only live about another 6 months or so. We took him in on Thursday to do a complete blood panel to try and better pinpoint how long he has. Like all my dogs, when their 'time' comes, I wish for them to go surrounded by their family - the people that love them. As I won't be around for Pirate in January, February, and March, I want to make sure that he is going to be okay until I get home. Things are looking pretty optimistic for that. All and all a sad situation.

I still have a really tough decision to make and that is which 20 of the 22 dogs currently in training are going to Alaska with me. I've been puzzling this over in great detail and having the hardest time making this decision, but there is only room on the truck for 20 dogs for an extended trip, so it is going to have to be figured out this week! Everyone has strengths that I know would be an asset out on the trail. What to do, what to do!!!???? I'll post the names of the 20 I pick here as soon as I make up my mind!

My Mom certainly worked hard while she was here too. On top of slaving away in the kitchen cooking an early Christmas dinner, she was vacuum sealing trail meals that were donated to me by my best friend, Lynda Brown and her husband Dwayne Dubetz. I'm really, really lucky to have these two gifted cooks preparing meals for the trail. I'm definitely going to be eating better on the Iditarod then I do at home when I'm cooking for myself!

Well, there is lots more to say, but no time to say it, I'm afraid. I need to get outside and get the dogs fed and ready for the day. We are going to do 2 - 30 milers on the sled today, with snowmobile backup for safety!

Tuesday 7 December 1999

December 7, 1999

I was SHOCKED to see that it has been 2 weeks since my last entry. Where does time go???

I just got back last night from Alaska, where I was for the Iditarod's Mandatory Rookie Meeting. It was fun to get to meet some of the other rookies and do some visiting! Jamie West and her husband, Harry, were gracious enough to open their home to me and even loan me a truck so I could get out to Willow on Sunday. I also got to Palmer to visit Earl Norris in the hospital. For those of you that don't know Earl, he is one of the ikons of Siberian Huskies and racing in Alaska. Earl had a stroke last week, but they are figuring that he should be back home for Christmas. My thoughts are certainly with him, his wife, Natalie, and everyone else at Howling Dog Farms.

Things kept hopping around here even while I was away. Mark was busy running teams over the weekend so the mileage didn't fall off too much. We are heading into a difficult time here as the dogs mileage is to a point where runs take up a good part of the day, yet there is still much to be planned, acquired, packed, and organized before I leave for Alaska in 19 days. YIKES!!!! Christmas just falls at too busy a time to be celebrated much around here, but we do have some plans for some family get-togethers next week. Between vet visits and runs, we might even get a turkey dinner in there somewhere! I've done no decorating of the house (unless piles of dog booties in the dining room and drop bags in the hallway count!) other then sticking a wreath outside.

We had a scare with Pirate last weekend. Turns out he had a good size tumor in his intestine. Some of you might remember that Pirate is the rock eating dog from Oregon that we got a few months back. He is very young to have such a thing, we are hoping that it is a product of one of his earlier rock removal surgeries. Right now he looks a little like a patchwork quilt with shaved patches on his legs and belly. We were very grateful to Pirate's Uncle Blunder, who was rushed to the vet clinic by his owner, Roger Morey, so we could do a blood transfusion. It certainly helped his recovery!

We were VERY excited to get our December issue of 'Dogs in Canada' magazine in the mail last week. Dogs in Canada is the Canadian Kennel Club's official publication. It is a very well done and award winning magazine and this month it features OUR DOG TEAM - not only on the cover, but with a 4 page article by Heather Brennan inside! They all did such a nice job - I was overwhelmed when I saw it for the first time. Unfortunately, it is not available online, but if some of you might be interested in getting a hold of a copy you can order one at the Dogs in Canada website.

Well, seems like I could go on chatting forever this morning, but there is not a speck of food in the house and I need to run into town and do some grocery shopping before running a team today!

Tuesday 23 November 1999

November 23, 1999

Well, I did end up canceling the school visit I was suppose to do last Thursday. I 'toughed' it out on Friday though and with the help of a few glasses of water, got through 2 presentations to a total of nearly 700 kids! I still haven't completely recovered from this nasty flu, but I seem to have it on the run now!

I did 2 school talks yesterday. Spud, Camilla,and KD came along. Spud used to be my 'regular' for school visits, but maybe because we had been doing so many, he was getting bored with them and not having fun. This was the first visit he has done in a long while and the KING is back! I looked over at one time during my slide show and Spud was stretched out across the laps of 4 teenage girls. One was rubbing his ears, one scratching his belly, and another stroking his tail - what a ham! He absolutely 'worked' that crowd! Little KD had a blast too! I turned her loose and she would run in circles around the room at high speeds, punctuating the run with a little bark every now and then, and then PLUNGE into the group of kids. It was like Moshing - Siberian style!!!! A fun time was had by all!
I thought that you might be interested in a little about what a typical day and a typical week in our lives is like, so here goes....

Normally the dogs get Monday and Thursday off. I've been using those days to get into the city, pick up dog food, grocery shop, do banking, school visits, vet visits, etc, etc. Tuesday and Wednesday I've been running 1 team each day. Mark doesn't work Friday, Saturday, Sunday (he works 4 - 10 hours day/week), so those days are are big running days. This is putting the dogs on a 3 days on - 1 (2) day(s) off, 1 day on - 2 (1) days off. For now that is working well, although the runs will need get more frequent relatively soon.

A 'typical' day is kind of rare around here, as things always seem to happen to disrupt the best of plans, but usually we are up at 5am. On work days, Mark is out of the house by 6am - and here's my BIG confession - between 6 - 7 I usually plunk myself in front of the TV with a cup of coffee and watch Northern Exposure on A&E. Absolutely, my favorite show of all time! After that, or at 6am on Mark's days off, it's out the door to water dogs. First I feed the 'A' team (24 dogs and 2 'alternates'). Their meal is thicker and meatier due to their increased caloric needs. Then the 11 'B' team dogs. We then go through and pick up bowls, taking the opportunity to play, snuggle, and mess around with the dogs. This is also a good time to check any problems with the 'A' team dogs, something like the foot that might have been tender after the last run or things like that. Then off to 'Geriatric Park' to feed and say 'Good Morning' to the 4 seniors. We save the pups for last! After feeding we get the meat thawing for the days teams and dinner. Then back into the house for 1 1/2 - 2 hours while the dogs digest their meal! This time is usually used for breakfast, catching up on email, paying bills, and stuff like that. Now comes running! As we are still on the quads, runs are slower then with a sled, including hooking up, running, and feeding/putting the dogs away afterwards, we are usually out for between 6 - 10 hours. Sometime during that time, Colin, the young man that helps out in the yard, will have showed up and shoveled the yard for us. If we get in the yard after about 4 pm, then we will feed the dogs their dinner in harness. Otherwise, they get another meal of soup after a run. At 8pm it is feeding time. Mark and I always feed the kennel together in the evening. Last year, I was feeding before Mark got home from work, but he missed the time with the dogs we changed the schedule. By 9pm we are calling it a day!

Well, the 2 hours since feeding are almost up this morning! I need to get out there and get ready to run!

Monday 15 November 1999

November 15, 1999

I've lost my voice due to a cold/cough that I've been packing around for a few days. So, I'm going to have to get my 'talking fix' in by updating my journal today!! I don't know what I'm going to do if the phone rings. I hope it doesn't last long, as I'm scheduled to do 5 or 6 school talks over this Thursday and Friday. I'd hate to have to cancel.

Other then the cold, everything is going well. We did a 43.5 mile run on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and then Sunday spend the day doing health checks and vaccinating the 'A' team for kennel cough. For our health checks we bring the dog into our well lit garage weigh them, check their feet, teeth, gums, ears, look for harness rubs, etc, etc.. Of course, we do check them every time we are putting them away after a run, but it's a good idea to get a really good look at them up on a table every now and then too! Just for interests sake, I thought I'd give you some weights on the dogs. Our smallest dog is Joey, who weighs in at 38.5 lbs. On the other end of the scale is Mork, at a whopping 65 lbs. Average weight on the 'A' team is 49lbs.

I spent some time at the vet's again yesterday. Striker has been coughing for almost a month. We had tried some antibiotics, but they didn't help, so we had him put under so Dr. Jackson could take a good look down his throat. Turns out he has tonsillitis. So he is on a different antibiotic. I hope this clears it up quick. His attitude has not been affected by his cough and he is not at all happy with not being allowed to run!

I almost forgot to tell you about 'Take Out' :) On our Saturday run Mark discovered an abandon little grey and white kitten on the side of the road. It was meowing it's head off and Mark flatly refused to leave it there. It was quite the trick trying to keep 2 - 12 dog teams under control while trying to grab a half wild kitten. But we accomplished it! I will long hold the memory of Mark's team moving down the road in front of me with a kitten perched on his shoulder (the kitten kept crawling out of his jacket, climbing up his shoulder and attempting to leap off the moving quad). So 'Take Out' now joins 'Grisle' and 'Kibble' as the resident yard cats!

Well, I'm going to go drink another gallon of orange juice and see if all that vitamin C helps me shake off this nasty bug!

Wednesday 10 November 1999

November 10, 1999

Well hello to all. Things are going pretty well here. We had another good weekend of training on the dogs. On Monday I went to the Kikino Metis Settlement, about 1 1/2 hours from here and talked to the kids. One of the pups, Odie, and Lyra came along for the trip. We all had a really good time.

Yesterday I wanted to get a run in on the dogs, but ended up returning phone calls, booking airline tickets, and doing some trip planning. It is only 6 weeks till I head up to Alaska, so I can't let details get away from me. This morning Mark and I were counting how many days we are going to be in Alaska and trying to figure out how much kibble and meat we will need for the dogs. Then, of course, we are working on the food drops for Iditarod. We need to cut up and package all the meat for the trail, as well the rest of the dogs food, my food, extra gear, etc, etc. I can't wait till all that is out of the way and I can get on the trail!!!!! I think that is a pretty common feeling among mushers!

I did also get one fun chore in yesterday - it was a Straw Day!!! The dogs just love straw. It is like Christmas in the yard when I drag out the skidder and start dividing up a bale. The pups hadn't seen straw before and it is so scattered across their kennel that it won't offer much insulating value for them, but they sure had fun running around chasing each other through it! The older dogs aren't much better. They bounce and bark, grab mouthfuls out of my arms and dash around their areas shaking their heads and sending straw flying! After dinner there was a lot of satisfied 'sighs' as the dogs bedded down in their houses for the night! I think the mental benefits of Straw Day are just about as good as the physical ones!
Well, I need to get outside and get the dogs fed, so I can run later this morning. We give the dogs 2 hours after their breakfast to digest their meal before asking them to work.

Tuesday 2 November 1999

November 2, 1999

Hunting season has arrived! Not a good thing for mushers around here! I've outfitted the dogs with blaze oranges vests to wear over their harnesses, which should help keep us safe as we share the woods with hunters for the next month.

We had another excellent weekend of training, putting 90 miles on all the 'A' team dogs in 3 days. We even discovered some really lovely new trails!

Yesterday the dogs all got a day off to rest. I spent the day catching up on paying bills, banking, my correspondence, yard chores..... Not much rest for me :) We picked all the water buckets up on Sunday too, that means that our feeding schedule changes now. In the summer, the dogs have buckets hanging on their houses with fresh water available all the time. Feeding consists of going through the yard in the evening with dry kibble. Now that the buckets are off the houses we feed a breakfast of meat, National Energy Pack and water. Their evening meal starts off with dry kibble and vitamins and then we go through the yard and scoop out their 'soup' of meat and water. Most mushers feed their kibble soaked in water/meat, but we have found that our critters eat better if offered dry kibble first! It requires an extra 'pass' through the yard in the evening, but Mark and I both enjoy feeding time and the visiting that we do with the dogs then! Of course, in addition to all this, the dogs get fed after every run too. Usually a snack of frozen fish, lamb or beef and followed up with a meat, Energy Pack and water soup! Lately, we have been adding a little kibble after the run as I'm trying to put some more weight on a number of the dogs!
Today, I'm going to get a run in. Then I need to go into the Vet in Westlock. Seems Striker and Chester had a minor disagreement on the weekend. Even minor disagreements can be a problem when you have 2" canines! Striker got a puncture wound on his nose, nothing serious, but it is swelling a little and I want my vet, Dr. Jackson, to take a quick look at it and probably put him on antibiotics.

Well, that's the news and gossip for this morning!

Tuesday 26 October 1999

October 26, 1999

We had a great weekend with the dogs! Despite some warmer then normal weather we still managed to put over 70 miles (in three separate runs) on the dogs. We are aiming to put a straight through 50 miler on them this weekend! Their training is coming along really well.

On Saturday, we were finished running around noon, so we packed up and went into the city for the day. We went to a gun range in town and I practiced some with firing a .44 magnum. This is the caliber of gun that I plan on carrying in the Iditarod, so it is important that I get comfortable with it! MOOSE BEWARE - I'm getting pretty good. We also took the time to treat ourselves to a movie - something we used to do lots, but can't seem to find much time for anymore. We went to see the 'Sixth Sense' with Bruce Willis - pretty good, I thought!

I had read the scary story on Jon Little's homepage of his moose encounter last week and wanted to tell you all some of the 'dangers' of the trail that we face during training. We do also have moose (luckily not quite as big and ornery as Alaskan moose!), in fact, Mark chased a young bull moose down the trail with his team on Sunday. However, we live in a mostly rural, farming/ranching area, so most of the animals we meet during a run are loose farm dogs, cows, horses, and such! Actually, the farm dogs are great distractions and good 'On By' training for the team! In addition to all this, we live 1 mile off of Highway #2 that runs from Edmonton to Athabasca, many of our trails are accessed by running 2 or 3 miles along the highway in the ditch. The ditches are wide and safe to be in, but the semis roaring by are unnerving at the best of times! It's also a pretty big distraction for drivers, dog teams in Alaska might be a common place, but in our area, we are quite the novelty! Drivers honk, hit their brakes, and some even stop to take pictures! I just keep my fingers crossed that there will be no accidents and remind my self what great training this is for Day 1 of the Iditarod, where we run through downtown Anchorage!

I spend all day yesterday in a town about 1 hour from us, called Smith. I did 6 presentations to the school kids there (Grade 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6, and the junior High Kids) on dog sledding and the Iditarod! Camilla and Mannie came along as well. Mannie was unsure of his footing on the linoleum flooring and didn't have a very good time, but Camilla was very well behaved and enjoyed meeting all the kids! I did my slide show and showed the Idit-a-Rock and Roll video, which is a BIG hit with the kids! I always have fun at school visits - the kids are always so interested and ask some of the coolest questions! I've been doing around one school a week for the last while, but we are going to have to start putting visits off till after Iditarod, as training is taking up more and more of my time!

Well, that's all the news for today. It's kind of warm again, but cloudy so it shouldn't get too hot, so I'm off to do a 20 - 25 mile run with the team!

If anyone is reading this :) and has questions that they would like to see answered here, just email them to me at (removed old address)  and I will certainly try to get them answered!

Thursday 21 October 1999

October 21, 1999

My goodness, I almost forgot that I have a picture of my 'new' dog truck online! (actually, it's not new - just all refitted and repainted!!! But it looks NOTHING like it did before!). Our sincerest thanks to our good friend, Roger Morey - he put a lot of time and heart into making them look so good!!

Not much new here. I've been having sleepless nights thanks to a coyote that is hanging around the edge of the dog yard. This is the first time in 10 years that we have had an ongoing problem like this! I'm not really worried about the Siberians, in fact, they don't even seemed bothered much by the visitor, but my 15 year old, half blind, mostly deaf Sheltie X house dog is a worry. He is only allowed supervised time outside right now. I got Mark up at 4am when the coyote was out at the entrance to the yard. He fired a few shots into the air, but it only scared our visitor away for an hour or so. I'm worried that if they keep getting braver, they might start bothering the Sibes. Mr. Coyote is going to have to take the hint that he is not welcome here - or we are going to be forced into looking at getting rid of him :(

Well, yesterday was too warm to run the dogs, but today is a little cooler, so I'm heading out to run right away! Talk to you all again soon!

Friday 15 October 1999

October 15, 1999

Well, we are back from Jamie's and working hard at the training! The trip to Minnesota was great. We put a lot of miles on the dogs and Jamie, once again, showed me that I need to up my expectations on them. They are now doing 20+ miles per run and have even done a 40 miler, although with a 4 hour break in the middle of the run! I'm having a great time playing with all my young leaders, in fact, I can't remember the last time I had one of the 'old stand-byes' in lead!
We had some problems with Mork. The day we were leaving he somehow badly sliced open his foot. Cut right through one of the toe pads. We packed him up and took him along and one of Jamie's vets in Minnesota did surgery on him. For awhile there was speculation that this might end his running career, but he has healed well and was back in harness again 3 weeks after the surgery! That was the vet's 'best case' scenario! I'm very happy to have him back - now he just has to catch up in miles!
Breezy, Mom of our summer pups is back in harness! And speaking of the pups, I have a few new pictures : Hugi and Kara, Thor, KD, and Stripey. Stripey has actually moved to her new home in Edmonton with a very nice couple that think the world of her! It is hard to let pups go, but a little easier when they go to such terrific homes!
We also have a new addition - Pirate. Pirate comes to us from our friend, Karen Yeargain in Sisters, Oregon. I had tried to buy Pirate when he was a young pup, but Karen wouldn't let him go. Then, sadly, within the last few months he developed a habit of eating rocks! Within 2 weeks he had to have 3 surgeries to remove them from his stomach! Because our kennel is on sandy soil with no rocks it was in his best interest to try living up here! He is still a young dog, just over 1 year, but I'm happy to take the chance on him - he is soooooo nicely built!!
Well, I think that is all the gossip and news for now. Now that the page is up on the new site, you should see it being updated on a more regular basis!!! PROMISE!! ;)

Wednesday 15 September 1999

September 15, 1999

Sorry to be so long with diary entries. As you will have noticed, I moved the diary off the Geocities site. I'm having a little disagreement with Geocities and am unable to do any updating of the pages there. 

Watch for everything to move to this site within the next while.

Everything else here is going well. Training is progressing. August was a little warmer then I would have liked, but I am making up for it this month! The dogs are up to 12 mile runs and pulling really hard. I'm surprised at how much stronger they seem then last year! Grover is showing strong signs that he is the next main leader in the kennel. I am AMAZED at how quickly he is picking everything up! I only started him up front at Jamie Nelson's in March! Speaking of Jamie's....we are heading off for there next week. I'm looking forward to training with her again!

We have had a few new additions to the kennel. First Rowdy, a Spud son, came back to live with us. Don't know if he will stay for good, but he is enjoying running!! I was lucky enough to pick up 3 dogs from my friend Vivian Delude of Lethbridge. Jetty, Mannie, and Spider are all fitting in very well. I should have pictures of them up soon. I took Mannie to the Peace River Show in August and put 6 points on him! I look forward to getting him out more next year! We also have 8 really exciting new additions!! Breezy delivered 8 puppies on July 27. We decided to name them after Norse Gods and Goddesses, so the pups are Thor, Loki, Oden (Odie), Hugi, Freya, Skadi (KD), Kara, and Mist (who we usually call Stripey!). We still haven't made final decisions on who is staying, but Hugi is moving to Red Deer next week to live with his new family!

Iditarod entries are filling up quickly. Already there are 72 mushers on the list. A record 64 signed up on the first day! It is pretty cool to have my name up there with so many of my heroes! Less then six months to the BIG DAY!!!

Well, I need to run and work on packing for Minnesota. We just got our dog truck back. Our good friend, Roger Morey, has completely redone the boxes - they look so good! We also needed to get the deck sandblasted, painted, and some new mirrors and body work done on the truck - so we had it repainted at the same time. When Mark pulled in the yard with the 'new' rig, I thought I was going to have to run and buy a new dog team that was as professional looking as it was! :) We took some pictures yesterday, I'll try and get them online as soon as we are back from Minnesota! In the meantime, if you pass a fancy looking red/black dog truck with spiffy looking maple leaf cutouts on the doors - make sure to wave!!!!

Thursday 17 June 1999

June 17, 1999

Well, I decided this would be a good time to start the 2000 Journal. The dogs are on 'summer holidays' for 1 month. We expect that we will be 'back at it' again early next month. Things are staying very busy for me as I am cleaning up harness, ganglines and the like. I'm also working on fundraising and organization for Iditarod.
I took a little break last weekend and took Breezy and Spud out to the Canadian National Siberian Husky Show in Regina, Saskatchewan. Breezy was given an Award of Merit and Best Overall Sled dog. Spud took his veteran class as well. All and all a great weekend. It was great to visit with some old friends and to make some new ones!
I'm off to the Post Office today to courier off my Iditarod entry. Entries open June 26 and the Iditarod Homepage will have all the first day entrants posted there!